Sunday, May 20, 2012

Challenging the line = crossing the line

Yesterday, I managed to get Laddie dropped from a trial on a handler error once again.

One of the judges, realizing that I was inexperienced in field trials, and first checking on whether I was interested in hearing his thoughts, was kind enough to explain a concept to me while Laddie was returning with the water blind, even drawing a diagram in the sand with a stick.

The judge told me that although Laddie had taken every cast and had stayed within a reasonable corridor, I had not "challenged the line."  Specifically, I had not handled Laddie onto the left side of the line, where all the trouble was, until the last few yards of the blind.

That was true.  Quite intentionally, I had run Laddie along the right side of the line the entire blind, which I'd estimate at 210y.  I intended to keep him on the right even at the end.  I just misjudged the distance on a cast that was supposed to put him onto the little landing area.

But since Laddie remained in a tight corridor the whole way, I thought he'd run a good blind.  I'd heard the term "challenging the line" before, but I never understood what it meant.  As the judge explained to me, I think that in this case it means, simply, crossing the line.

Later I watched a couple of pros running the last few dogs.  They ran almost the identical blind that Laddie ran, except that at around 70y, they cast the dog toward the point on the left, crossed the imaginary line from the handler to the blind, and then, before the dog reached land, cast the dog back over onto the right side again.  Even dogs who had more trouble at the end than Laddie had, repeatedly refusing casts, were called back.

Actually, Laddie might have been called back, too, if fewer dogs had come into the series.  But with 14 dogs running the blind, the judges narrowed the field to nine, and Laddie was dropped.

Could I have challenged (crossed) the line with Laddie and then gotten him back over on the right to finish?  I think so.  In any case, I wish I'd realized I needed to try.



ducks and bumpers said...

sounds like you and laddie are doing really well making it to the water blind. do you think judge was nitpicking or should we be aware of this in our next trial

Lindsay, with Lumi & Laddie said...

Hi, "ducks and bumpers". Thanks so much for your comment. I don't recognize your name, but it's great to hear from you. Please feel free to write to me via email if you wish: LDRidgeway at gmail.

To answer your question, no, I don't think the judges were nitpicking at all. I think they wanted to see some control that Laddie and I didn't show them because I played it too safe.

After reading this post, my mentor, Alice Woodyard, sent me an extensive discussion on the subject of challenging the line, which I hope to include in a future post either on this blog or on my reference blog, "2Q Retriever".

In summary, Alice explained that if the handler keeps the dog "safe" (away from areas where the dog might go out of control), the dog is likely to be dropped if enough other handlers demonstrate that they are able to send their dogs into those areas without losing control of their dogs. Examples of how to avoid being dropped include maintaining a narrow corridor, identifying principle hazards the judges might expect you to be either close to or in contact with, identifying which of those hazards are mandatory and which are merely preferred, and identifying which of the preferred hazards may be too difficult, preventing your dog from being able to complete the blind ("survive") if you attempt them.

Alice also confirmed the simple rule "be sure to cross the line at least once", since some judges consider that mandatory, as was apparently the case with the judges in this trial, based on what the guy said to me.

By the way, all of this is in addition to the usual training objectives of having the dog get in the water when cast there, holding a cross wind, not losing the dog over a dike at the end, etc. These are all important, but they're more obvious to those of us who are new to field work, whereas the earlier points are not necessarily so obvious.

For making the kind of judgments Alice described, it's quite helpful to watch other dogs run the blind before your turn. In this case, I only got to watch one dog run the blind, and that dog (the test dog) was unable to get past the point at about 70y. I was also cognizant of the last competition water blind Laddie ran, almost a year ago, in which the first four dogs passed, and the next eight (including Laddie) all failed, thanks to a major change in weather conditions between the fourth and fifth dogs.

As a result, I was most concerned with "survival" on this blind. But perhaps if I had seen several dogs run the blind without going out of control near the point -- nine dogs were ultimately called back -- I'd have been less concerned about sending Laddie over there. On the other hand, it's also possible that even seeing that, given that at that time I had not yet had Alice's explanation of this subject, I still might have failed to challenge the line and Laddie might still have been dropped.


[Note that entries are displayed from newest to oldest.]